Podcast: What is pleasure for you – Tanzila Khan

Has anyone ever asked you what is pleasure for you? Tanzila Khan gets personal with Aisha Lovely George and shares her stories on this podcast. She tries to reclaim the word “pleasure ” from the sexual connotation. For her it’s success. She discusses her idea of body, idea of sexual fantasy and what all can be done with it.

Can you get pleasure without a partner? Can we have conversations about it without sex? Can it be about food? What all options do we have? Does sex restricts the idea of pleasure for some groups? Can woman talk about pleasure? Is there a guilt element that prevents women from engaging with the idea of sex? Is there a class angle, can it only be enjoyed by people from certain class? Do we all long for pleasure?

These are some of the questions with which Tanzila in this podcast asks us to expand our understanding of pleasure. A woman with disability tries to take back the idea of pleasure and fight for it.

Kishmish Products

Random Hacks of Kindness Bangalore to build affordable accessibility technology

“Not many people are working on affordable accessibility technology. Our group in Bangalore has a group of people who specifically look at accessibility and they have been working on it for years. Since they get involved frequently, it gives the group very good insight into the sector. Accessibility is the area we are able to articulate better problem statements so we stick to it because if there is something that we could come out with then we should retain it.”– Chinmayi S.K, Global Community Coordinator, Random Hacks of Kindness.

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) claims to be the longest running social hackathon in the world. Accessibility has been a focal theme for Random Hacks of Kindness, Bangalore in the past few editions of their hackathon. The 2016 edition of the hackathon dealt primarily with disability: to make different spaces accessible to persons with disabilities. The problem statements put forth in the 2016 edition included accessible bus stops , public toilets and travel apps accessible for persons with different kind of disabilities. Apart from these, assistive technology mechanism, water management, wheelchair accessibility were also put forth as problems at the beginning of Day 1 of the 2016 edition. Day 2 focused on solving challenges of different accessibility issues. This included the challenges of accessible toilets, accessible bus stands for visually impaired, facial/speech recognition for quadriplegic and workplace solution assessment app for persons with disabilities.

This year’s Bangalore edition happening on June 24 and 25, 2017 is looking to hack to solve five different problems statements pitched by different partner organisations. The press release states the following as the themes for the 2017 edition: disability, sustainability and disaster management which has as its problem statement:

  1. Accessible public transport to enable visually impaired person to identify bus stops. (proposed by Cheshire homes)
  2. Early warning system for earthquakes and other natural calamities (proposed by Opencube Labs)
  3. Carbon foot prints reduction in the agriculture sector (proposed by World Merit India & Opencube Labs)
  4. Conserving water in the agriculture sector. (proposed by World Merit India)
  5. To improve the user interface of an open source application used to map trees (proposed by Gubbi labs)

Earlier, RHoK editions in India would adopt the global hackathon themes. However, in the last few years, the local teams in each city have been deciding on the main themes for their city’s hackathons, based on the issues most prominent in their city.

“After the teams come up with a list of top themes, we reach out to each year’s partners to provide their specific problem statements. After this, we see if these are problems with technical viability. Is there something already existing that could solve this problem? If the answer is no then we go ahead and take that problem up to refine it to be presented to participants in a hackathon,” explains Chinmayi S.K.

She adds that Team RHoK is also working to make the hackathon more accessible with written material for RHoK groups to follow. The team claims to be presently working on a more comprehensive material that RHoK can use globally to make the hackathon and even the venues more accessible. Presently, funding seems to be the main constraints in making the hackathon fully accessible to all.

” The one thing is we do not have too much funding but we try to make it as accessible but clearly don’t go all the way. We want to do that more. We know what it takes it to make an event accessible. We hope to make the event more accessible.” – Chinmay S.K.

The previous editions of Random Hacks of Kindness were for many civic issues like: gender based violence, the floods in Chennai, and the differently abled. This includes the bachchao app for women’s safety and talking Keyboard, a talking typing device for training the visually impaired to build their computer skills. Since the idea is to hack to solve a social issue, no prize money is usually offered to the winning hack. However, RHoK may help the winning idea raise seed funding to take the idea forward. Ideas that have raised seed funding include Bachao, a safety app for women and Accessible bus stops. Apart from that, RHoK also follows up with the developers of other solutions to see their progress and support them where may be required.

“The talking keyboard was actually tested with visually impaired candidates who are taking computer training. And they gave us feedback,” says Chinmayi SK.

So far, the Indian editions have been supported by funding from organisations including NASSCOM 10,000 startups, US Consulate Kolkata, Twitter, HP and Yahoo. This year’s list of partners for the event include Mobisys Technologies, Gubbi Labs, Hidden Pockets, Cheshire Homes, World Merit India and Opencube Labs.

Born at the first Crisis Bar Camp that happened in Washington DC in 2009 to produce open source solutions, Random Hacks of Kindness is now in its seventh edition. With a focus on creating solutions for societal challenges by connecting technologists and different organisations, the global community is now under Geeks Without Bounds with an active presence in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.

RHoK presently is organized once or twice every year in five Indian cities including Guwahati, Ranchi, and Delhi. The hackathon may be introduced in Nasik or Nagpur this year.

“Anyone can participate. You only need to be interested in hacking to find a solution for a civic issue,” says Poornima Kannan, Team RHOK. “I don’t have a technology background but I participated in the Singpore edition of Random Hacks of Kindness.”

Anyone interested in participating in the hackathon can log onto https://www.krispypapad.com/rhokto register.

Disclaimer: Hidden Pockets is a media partner for Random Hacks of Kindness, Bangalore

How inclusive is the world around you :)


Author profile:

Tushita is a dreamer. Outer space and astrophysics attract her a lot. She loves both machines and trees. She is currently working with an NGO. In her free time, she likes to read books and sing. She is particularly fond of Rock and Hindustani Classical music. Clicking pictures of people is something she is exploring these days.

Doodle Pockets: grass is greener on the other side?



Author profile:

Tushita is a dreamer. Outer space and astrophysics attract her a lot. She loves both machines and trees. She is currently working with an NGO. In her free time, she likes to read books and sing. She is particularly fond of Rock and Hindustani Classical music. Clicking pictures of people is something she is exploring these days.

Pleasure and access through the eyes of a person with disability

If the service you are looking for is not there, please do write to us.

Write to us at hiddenpocketsinfo@gmail.com
Call us at +918861713567

“Whenever an event happens in Delhi, any able bodied person would first check if the tickets are available and if he or she can buy them. For me, it is a double step. I first need to check which hall it is in and then enquire whether the hall is accessible. Once I know that the hall is accessible then I need to go to step two which is buy the tickets and go for the event.”


Being a startup working around spaces, inclusiveness, pleasures and sexuality, Hidden Pockets made a conscious effort at making this World Disability Day about sharing pleasure pockets for the disabled, places that they can actually access considering that these options are usually limited and few. How about a look at access from the eyes of a person with disability? We spoke to Nipun Malhotra, CEO of Nipman Foundation about people with disability and access and the work his organisation does around making spaces accessible.

In December 2015, the government of India launched the Accessibility India Campaign in an attempt to make government buildings accessible to people with disability. This campaign aims to make at least 50% of the government buildings in the national capital and all states capitals, accessible to people with disability by July 2018.

Demonetisation and access

I think the problem is much bigger than demonetization. I’m 29 years old and I have never really used an ATM. I always sign a cheque and give it to my attendant to have the cash withdrawn. That said, I’ve been hearing two kinds of feedback about demonetization, one that says that banks have released a circular about a separate queue for senior citizens and the disabled, mostly in Delhi. The other one is negative.

Going beyond demonetization, what is required is an institutional change and financial access to people with disability. For the visually challenged, most of the banks’ website are not accessible. So they cannot even do electronic transactions. With respect to mobility challenges, most of the banks have not been accessible. So with or without demonetization, that has been a long-term struggle.

People with disability as complete individuals

While there are NGOs in the country that focus on auditing public spaces to provide access to people with disability, to Nipun Malhotra,  says it is about looking at people with disability as complete individuals and going beyond educational institutions and hospitals.

I have realised that for people with disability in India, schools and hospitals are two spaces that people focus on. Even in schools and hospitals, the figures are quite disappointing. There is need for change in attitude in India towards people with disability. People with disability should be looked at as complete individuals and not just as people with physiological needs. Disabled people should also be out in the open celebrating.

Nipun Malhotra commutes on a wheelchair due to arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder leading to a lack of muscles in arms and legs that he was born with. Nipman Foundation works as accessibility partner for events and festivals auditing temporary structures to provide access to the disabled. Apart from the Serendipity Arts Festival (Goa) scheduled to happen in December 2016, Jaipur Literary Festival and NH7 Weekender are some of the festivals and events that the organisation has partnered with so far.

With over a decade of experience in auditing public spaces including Delhi Metro, Delhi Parliament, the Delhi High Court, Delhi Heart, Priyanka Malhotra, a disability rights activist and an accessibility auditor, started the Nipman Foundation in 2012. The organisation works on different spheres of providing access to the disabled, be it to wheelchairs, livelihood, health and other services. Now the organisation also focuses on events and temporary structures.

A few accessible events and festivals in India

It depends on what the festival really wants. One of the ideas that we came up for the NH7 Weekender was having raised platforms for people with disability who are in a sitting position. These events usually have people standing and that obstructs the view of the people sitting. Raised platforms will make the visibility of the stage at eye level. It would be easier for them to look at things. That is just one example,

Apart from raised platforms, the organisation also looked at access to disabled friendly toilets, training and sensitisation of staff at the music festival. According to Malhotra, being an accessible, Jaipur Literary Festival only required support with ramps for the stage and wheelchairs for any elderly or disabled persons attending the event. Nipman Foundation had a stall offering wheelchairs and volunteers who can help, making the festival accessible to people with disability.

With the Serendipity Arts Festival being in its first edition, Nipman Foundation sees the potential to make the festival completely accessible to people with disability. Apart from the venue accessible and providing accessible transportation for people with disability, the festival has a long term vision of making the content accessible, adds Malhotra who classifies access as physical, attitudinal and access to content.

Public spaces in New Delhi

Speaking about his home city of Delhi, Malhotra adds that India Habitat Centre, India International Centre and five star hotels are accessible (wheel chair friendly). What about other public spaces?

Whenever an event happens in Delhi, any able bodied person would first if the tickets are available and if he or she can buy them. For me, it is a double step. I first need to check which hall it is in and then enquire whether the hall is accessible. Once I know that the hall is accessible then I need to go to step two which is buy the tickets and go for the event. I live in Gurgaon. There is a theatre right next to my house. But the theatre is not accessible at all. 

Other accessible movie theatres in New Delhi

Spice Cinema in Noida was completely accessible. There is a PVR in Saket that is very accessible. Then there is a theatre in Select city or DLF Mall one of the two, that is quite accessible. Then there is a Three Seasons Lajput Nagar that is very accessible. There are these four or five theatres that are quite accessible. Other than that the situation is quite bad. 

Being an avid movie watcher used to watching at least a movie every week, Malhotra notes that Spice Cinemas in Noida to be completely accessible. It appears that the builders of the mall were open to inputs about making the mall accessible.

I actually approached the builders of the mall and sent them a polite mail with a couple of recommendations and also met one of the managers with my mother. They were receptive to us. They took our feedback and ensured that it was accessible.

Approach to making spaces accessible?

The way to go about things is instead of retrofitting things and making them accessible, it would help if the government comes up with a policy that mandates a NOC for accessibility for commercial buildings over a particular size, just like a emergency fire exit etc. Unless that certificate is given, the completion certificate should not be given.

Supreme Court’s mandate on national anthem in theatres

I’m going to stay silent on whether the national anthem should be played. Not because I don’t have an opinion, but because as a wheelchair user, my challenge is much more complicated, writes Malhotra talking about the recent Supreme Court mandate on playing the national anthem in cinema halls.

The Supreme Court order states, “All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.” The order does not exempt the disabled. There is no mention of the disabled.

Editor’s note: While pleasure pockets for people with disability may seem like a concept that can only be afforded by the privileged class, the idea is to look at people with disability as complete beings with pleasures and desires and not just beings with physical requirements. That attitudinal shift will happen only by having conversations around making all public spaces, (government buildings, malls, parks, super markets, hospitals, banks, schools, colleges, roads, pavements) basically any structure inclusive with access to all. While the government and other bodies (hopefully) work towards making spaces more accessible and (hopefully) passing the Disability Bill 2014, let’s have more conversations around making all spaces inclusive!

Financial inclusion for the disabled in India: demonetisation and beyond #makeyourcityinclusive

In the life of a disabled bank employee on the day of the demonetisation

Prem Kumar*, 55 years old, disabled bank clerk with polio, Central Office of a nationalised bank in Chennai

  • November 9, 2016, 9.30AM: Prem Kumar has Rs. 70 in his wallet enough to take him to his office by auto-rickshaw. He always withdraws only Rs. 400, never Rs. 500 or 1000 because auto drivers don’t give change.
  • 10.00AM: Prem Kumar tries to withdraw cash from the ATM in his office. The ATM is out of service.
  • 10.30AM: Prem Kumar asks his office messenger to get him cash from the bank branch next door.
  • 11.00AM: After accepting the cheque, the messenger is asked to come later to collect the cash. Cashier in the branch serves the customers first, setting aside Kumar, a colleague’s cheque.
  • 1.00PM: Prem Kumar goes back to the ATM on the ground floor during lunch break to withdraw cash. The queue is long. Unable to stand for too long, he goes back to his office to come back later.
  • 3.30PM: Kumar goes down again from his desk on the fourth floor to the ATM. The ATM door has a notice that reads, NO CASH.
  • 5:00PM: Prem Kumar’s regular auto driver comes to pick him up from the office. Kumar boards the auto without cash. Being a regular customer, the auto driver gives him a day’s credit.
  • 6:00PM: Cashier issues the cash to the messenger.
  • November 10, 2016, 10:00 AM: Prem Kumar arrives at the office in an auto, collects cash from the messenger and pays the auto driver.

Being a disabled clerk in a nationalised bank, Prem Kumar considers himself to be among the most privileged. Most other disabled citizens of India didn’t think on the days following the announcement of demonetisation. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India announced the demonetisation on November 8, 2016 while the announcement for separate queues for senior citizens and the disabled was made only on November 14, 2016.

“My friend in rural West Bengal, had to go to a bank for three consecutive days along with an escort to withdraw cash. He is visually impaired,” says Anirban Mukherjee, Executive Member of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), Kolkata. “This has hit us pretty hard. Even in Kolkata, our friends are having problems. Getting the notes exchanged is also a very difficult thing. We have to fill in forms which cannot be managed without assistance. Standing in a long queue with someone escorting you, it actually becomes pretty precarious,” he adds.

Reserve Bank of India regulations to make banking accessible

In 2007, India ratified the UN Disability Convention. This Convention provides that states that ratify it should enact laws and measures to improve the rights of the disabled and also abolish laws, regulations and practices that discriminate against the disabled. Following this, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) passed its circular in November 2007 regarding people with autism, mental retardation and other conditions while in June 2008, it passed the circular addressing the problems faced by the visually impaired customers. Subsequently, there have been multiple rounds of changes in the standards set by the RBI to improve banking access to persons with disability. This includes opening and operating accounts, ATM access for the visually impaired and physically disabled, accessible websites, ramps in ATMs and banks, among others.

Talking ATMs for the visually impaired have also been launched by several banks across India. According to TalkingATMIndia.org, as of March 31, 2016, there are 9753 talking ATMs in the country. This includes Union Bank of India (1650+ talking ATMs), Citibank (106), Bank of Baroda (167), State Bank of India and associated banks (2882), HSBC (65), Deutsch Bank (32), Corporation Bank (2), Standard Chartered Bank of India (231) and Kashi Gomti Samyut Gramin Bank.

The accessibility gap continues

Even with regulations and policies, the problems seem to continue. Being visually impaired, Anirban Mukherjee notes that it is hard to find banks that are friendly to people with disability. “This is a general statement, not just with respect to the demonetisation. If there are banks which are disabled friendly then it is purely an exception and an accident. Locating an ATM is also very difficult,” he adds.

While TalkingATMIndia.org is one platform that provides access to this information, access to information about these accessible ATMs still seems to be a big concern. This information should be available on the bank’s website.However, a website audit of nationalised banks’ websites conducted by Maxability shows that all the top ten nationalised banks have accessibility violations on their website.

Gets worse with disabled women, and disabled in the rural areas

Disabled women and others with disability in the rural areas face higher ordeals with respect to demonetisation and access to any financial services even otherwise. “Women with disability have even lesser access to services especially financial services. They find it difficult to even come out without a family member’s support. They will not be allowed to even open a bank account because the family wouldn’t think that she is productive enough or see that she would need a bank account for her personal expenses. They have a derogatory attitude towards women with disability. That is the attitudinal problem,” notes Shampa Sengupta from Sruti Disability Rights Centre.

There is also the infrastructural problem. Having worked in the field of disability rights for over twenty five years, Sengupta notes that a very large percentage of disabled people do not have bank account or even a disability certificate. ID proof like Aadhar card is often denied to them. Even getting a disability certificate is difficult for most of them considering that it requires a valid address and ID proof. “ID and address proof is not available with a large number of people with whom we work with in the community. This is not an issue for disabled people from the affluent class. But majority of them come from poor families,” adds Sengupta.

Proof of address becomes a problem for them because they live in pukka houses. Therefore, opening a bank account meeting the KYC (Know Your Customer) norms which requires a valid address and ID proof is not possible. The situation has gotten worse with demonetisation considering that most of them work in the informal sectors and get paid in cash. Most of them have a monthly family income of around Rs. 5000. Those paid with five hundred rupee notes are finding it hard to get them exchanged. Though public spaces like petrol bunks are supposed to accept the old notes, many of them take a commission in the money exchanged if exchanged without filling petrol. This makes the situation of the disabled from with lower income far worse than the rest.

The gap is real!

Reserve bank of India may have passed circulars to make financial services inclusive, may be even mandated a separate queue for the disabled. And the current demonetisation happening in the country might have brought much of the black money to light. That said, its impact on those not included in the system is far higher. The question is will the government pay the price for the cost on the lives of these affected citizens or will people continue to be the ones to bear the weight?

*Name changed for reasons of anonymity

Featured Image : https://cfi-blog.org/tag/rural-finance/

Excl: Matchmaking app Inclov to add algorithm to show compatible matches for users with different disabilities

Inclov, the match making app for people with disability and health disorders is releasing the next version of its app with algorithm to provide compatible matches to people with different disability. Started in January 2016, the app presently claims to have 5000 registered users in India. We caught up with Kalyani Khona, CEO & Founder of Inclov to learn more about the latest additions to the app and their plans to make different spaces more inclusive for people with disability and otherwise.

Categories and registration

Hidden Pockets: What categories of people does your app, Inclov include?

Kalyani Khona: We have people with physical disability, intellectual disability, health disorders, no disability. Almost 50% are without disability as well. We have people with mental disorders like depression or someone who might have had a kidney transplant. Basically, anyone with a medical condition.

Hidden Pockets: Which is the category with the highest number of registrations?

Khona: Polio is highest second is cerebral palsy, next I would assume is Visually and Hearing impaired because our app is made compatible for them.

Hidden Pockets: What is the process involved in registering a user to your app?

Khona: You have to download the app from the Play Store first and create an account with email ID and password. We do a mobile verification and then you can create a profile. Then your profile goes up for review for 24 hours when we give you feedback if you need to change the display picture, if any information is not clear etc. to get you closest to finding a match. Once this is done, we accept your profile and you can start. While you are in review, you can start viewing profiles.

But you can start connecting only once we approve your profile. Once the other person accepts your request, you can start talking on our text box. We have a chat messenger in the app itself so that they don’t have to share their phone number, email IDs or any personal information. We also don’t allow people to take screen shots. Screen shots are disabled in our app. This way, women facing cyber crime issues are lesser because you can’t send or circulate images. It is only a platform to connect.

Next release and new features

Hidden Pockets: Do you have any limits on the number of people you can meet on the platform in a day, similar to Tinder?

Khona: Not right now. We plan to release Inclov 2.1 in a month now in November 2016. That’s where you have limitations like 5 to 10 profiles a day. We are changing our model to give one profile more time than scrolling through profiles and series of options in a day itself. So far, our platform, app, even our offline social meet up, everything is free.

Hidden Pockets: Why the decision to change the model?

Khona: We were reading some reports and following some patterns on our app. What happens is they see all the profile that reaches their filter. They open it and see it. They launch the chat and start talking to so many people at a time which means you don’t follow up. My experience on apps like Tinder has been that I have unlimited matches, I start talking and never follow up or complete that conversation. We are not sure how this will work. If we show you five profiles, and two of them accept then the chances are higher that you will get a match because you will spend the day talking to those two people rather than waiting to connect to more people. In the end, it is addictive. It has entertainment value and it is addictive to keep swiping and keep looking for more profiles.

But if we tell, hey stop you need to look within these people we show you or wait for tomorrow, you give what is already available a shot. This is our hypothesis because otherwise people say what’s more, she’s hot or she’s not. They turn on a filter and don’t even give it a shot while talking. The idea is to make this is a process of matchmaking rather than an one day thing to find a life partner. You’d agree with me when I say that finding a life partner is not definitely a one day thing, at least in India. You are seeing the profile, talking to a person, meeting them in person instead of scrolling through our entire database in an entire day.

We are moving from being an app that has a database to an app that has an algorithm. With our release in November, if you are visually impaired, you will not get anyone with hearing impairment because that is not a compatible match. You can’t see their sign language and they cannot hear you. It started as an agency model, then an app that has a database. Now we are shifting to a process driven algorithm which is helping them find a better match and not just showing them what all is available.

Special features for visually impaired

Hidden Pockets: How have you modified your app for people with visual impairment?

Khona: Most people cannot move beyond the sign up page because of accessibility. They can’t even sign up because they can’t read forms so our on-boarding process is 100% accessible. Each of our page has optimal readability, labelling each code in the background. For instance, it will read out loud Name, Puneeth, Age 26 and all the other information that is there. Everything is in audio in two ways, either you can put your headphones on and listen to it or it can talk back on every Android phone.

Hidden Pockets: How do you on-board a person with visual impairment?

All fields that he has to fill are labeled. Every character input is also spoken out. It is not like you can say Hi My name is…. and it will fill it automatically. We are not there yet. That is Artificial Intelligence. But when he inputs A, it will say A and when he adds B, it will say B. It will read it out loud to him.

Customisation for other disabilities

Hidden Pockets: How have you made your app accessible for people with other kinds of disability?

Khona: People with hearing impairment, so far have been exchanging their Skype Ids through text. So it is accessible to people with hearing impairment. But we are moving to the next phase and adding video calling so they talk to each other without sharing contact details. They can call the person and talk to them in sign language on video, in our app itself. For people with cerebal palsy and upper body impairment, we so far had a bottom bar. We are moving to card based profiles. It will be an addition. We will also have cards. You can swipe it. Moving forward to the next phase, we are also going to have voice calls. This is in the future but we are right now focused on releasing the new version.

The version that you currently see is a prototype. We used it for 9 to 10 months to see what users are doing and what are they searching for. It had no algorithm. We wanted to study their usage patterns. Who are they looking for, who are they connecting to, what are they talking etc. After this, we wanted to revamp the app. The new release is called Inclov 2.0 incorporating every learning that we have got in the last 8 to 10 months.

Learnings from the prototype

Hidden Pockets: What are some of the learnings that you had in the last 10 months?

Khona: The first criteria that we noticed is matchmaking patterns and the second is how they are using it. Like I said, we found out about the user preferences. For instance, the first preference of people with polio is people without disability and second would be people with polio.

Hidden Pockets: What are the patterns that you have noticed about people with intellectual disability?

Khona: The number of people with mental disability or intellectual disability is really less on our app. Not gotten there yet to be able to crack it so far. So far, just the array of problems for physical disabilities to find solutions is so huge that it hasn’t given us, our team of five people enough bandwidth to move to intellectual disability yet. We do plan to move into that area and figure this out. I know that people with down syndrome do get married and are in relationships. It is a huge possibility but we’ve not been able to move there yet.